Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, to remind ourselves of our many blessings. Perhaps your family, like mine, takes turns going around the dinner table during Thanksgiving dinner and having each person say what they are thankful for that particular year. My siblings and I always rolled our eyes, thinking it was such a cheesy thing to do, but now as I’m older, I find this is the tradition that I look forward to every year even more than pistachio pudding. There’s something powerful about vocalizing specific blessings; far too often, we get caught up in the flurry of the holidays and think off-handedly, “Yeah, I’m blessed” but actually stopping and being intentional in thinking about what we are most thankful for is a great exercise in gratitude.
This year, we asked not only the staff, but the women in our program what they are thankful for. While Mozambique, Uganda, nor El Salvador celebrate our Thanksgiving, we wanted to invite them into the conversation. Their answers are fairly split – half so poignantly showing the common, shared experience of people all around the world and the other half giving us a glimpse of the unique challenges that these women face. Some of these responses could come from your mouths while others might make you stop and ponder about the experiences of these women. One of the most powerful and encouraging part for us as a staff, is that every single answer coming out of El Salvador, our newest location, mentioned their thankfulness for the opportunity of employment. This reminds all of us that freedom from slavery means so much more than simply being rescued from a trafficker, pimp, or madam.
So grab a cup of coffee, settle down and read their answers while recognizing that you are a part of these women’s stories. Because of your generosity with your bras and your finances, you are part of the reason these women are thankful.
– Because of her bra-selling business, one woman in Mozambique has been able to care for and invest in her nephew for the past few years. This Thanksgiving, she’s thankful that he’s been accepted to play professional soccer in Mozambique and the part that she’s played in his journey to reach this point.
– One woman in El Salvador highlighted her thankfulness to able to put her children in private school. Because of the gang culture and violence in San Salvador, private schools are rather expensive but so much safer than public schools. A number of the women in the El Salvador program have made it a priority to put their children into these safe private schools with the wages they make in their bra-selling business.
– A Free The Girls staff member is thankful for her health and the access to healthcare that we have in the U.S. “Being healthy allows me to do all the things I’m passionate about – like being a wife, sister, daughter, friend, community volunteer, and, of course, an everyday abolitionist (and staff member) for Free the Girls.”
– Our Program Manager in Uganda is grateful for those who volunteer their time, money, and bras to help out these women all around the world. She understands how this global family is helping to change lives and restore freedom.
– A woman in Mozambique is most thankful for the restored relationship with her family. She was estranged from her family when they rejected her because of the forced entry into commercial sex. Today, though, her mother is actually her “employee”, selling bras during the day so she can attend school. Her family is reunited and she is incredibly grateful.
– A Free The Girls woman has finished trade school and is going to enter into university next year. Reaching the university level in sub-Sahara is an accomplishment that so many strive for but not many actually achieve. She is thankful for this opportunity to enter into higher education.
– One of our managers here at Free The Girls is thankful for what she calls the most basic of things including shelter, food, education for her children, and job opportunities. “Without these, we would not have the freedom to dream as big as we do.”
– Being able to be with her children, have her own house, and a flexible job is at the top of an El Salvador woman’s list this year.
– One member of our Free The Girls family stated that she is thankful for the group of people in her community that pray with her and for her regularly. Prayer has shaped her into the woman she is today, and she is grateful for the power of prayer.
– A member of our team is thankful for life. Having survived many health problems, she is so thankful to be able to spend time with family, hold her friends close, and help others who are not so fortunate. That’s why she’s so thankful for Free The Girls.
– A staff member is “pleased as punch” to have a job that is meaningful and fun while being able to meet the most amazing people around the world, watching them change the trajectory of their lives and leaving a new legacy to their children.
– A woman selling bras in the Free The Girls store in Uganda says simply, “I am grateful for life.”
Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you from all of us at Free The Girls.
Blog courtesy of Courtney Skiera-Vaughn, Free The Girls Executive Director